Eat dirt much? Nah, I didn’t think so. Pasteurized food, sanitized hands, germ-free living spaces, and antibiotics for all the things – most folks don’t like dirt and are even afraid of it. Soil based probiotics come from dirt. But they’re not scary. In fact, they do a whole lotta good.
What are soil based probiotics?
Soil based probiotics contain microbes that come from – you guessed it – the soil. And even though these microbes call the dirt their home, chances are good that your body is already familiar with them. After all, you don’t live in a germ-free bubble.
That said, folks these days are excessively clean. And according to the hygiene hypothesis, this cleanliness actually puts you at greater risk for disorders like autoimmune disease and allergies. Jeff Leach, founder of Human Food Project, has been studying the hunter-gather gut for years now and explains,
A great many diseases of the modern world represent a discordance with the ancient microbial world.
You see, for most of human history, we lived in a constant exchange with our environment – which was full of bugs, animals, parasites, microbes, and dirt. Our babies were born in dirt and hand sanitizer didn’t exist. Neither did things like obesity, diabetes, allergies, or autoimmune disorders.
The idea is that “bugs” – big and small – are indispensable when it comes to training the immune system. While soap and a little personal hygiene has done wonders for reducing the risk of infectious disease, the over-sterilization and pasteurization of all things has opened the door to chronic disease.
And no, a supplement cannot take you back in time. But soil based probiotics can help to restore some of what was lost.
What makes soil based probiotics different?
The majority of probiotic supplements on the market contain one or two types of good bacteria: lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.
Unlike these probiotics, soil based probiotics contain spore-forming bacteria. The ability to form spores means that these microbes can “hibernate” when nutrients are scarce and germinate once food becomes available. In other words, they’re able to adapt and overcome hardship.
Their hardy nature gives spore-forming, soil based probiotics two distinct characteristics that set them apart from other probiotics:
- Soil based probiotics are shelf-stable. They do not need refrigeration.
- Soil based probiotics can survive the acidic environment of the stomach. This means more probiotics reach your intestines.
Why soil based probiotics are awesome for your health
Even if you eat plenty of organic veggies, soil quality just isn’t what it used to be. Besides that, much of organic produce is sprayed with a diluted bleach solution to kill microbes and extend shelf life. This means that unless you grow your own and munch on plants straight from the garden, there’s no guarantee that you’re picking up a wide spectrum of microbes from dirt.
Which is a shame.
Soil based probiotics help to enrich the probiotic supplements you may already take – which is a good thing. Because there as many as one thousand different species of bacteria living in the human gut. Yet popular probiotics only offer a handful of the good guys.
Like I mentioned earlier, what sets soil based probiotics apart is that they have the ability to form spores. This allows them to travel and “germinate” further along the intestinal tract, in the colon. Unlike other probiotics that you need to keep taking in order to see a difference, soil based probiotics stick around. In animal studies, spores from soil based probiotics were found a month after taking a single dose.
How to rewild your gut microbes
I don't know about you, but I like clean sheets and bubble baths. I feel no need to revert back to earthen floors or eating only what I can catch. Still – it looks like reconnecting with nature and with dirt may be good for your health. Here's what I recommend.
Eat plenty of plants. Plants provide fiber. This fiber feeds gut bacteria. While folks following a paleo diet eat plenty of meat, the reality is that hunter-gathers ate A LOT of plants. Meat was often consumed seasonally – more like a side, rather than an entree.
Eat veggies that are grown with care. Biodynamic farming takes into account the health of the soil. When shopping for fruit and vegetables, this is ideal. Otherwise get to know your farmer. Strike up a conversation about soil quality and ask if they use bleach to extend the shelf life of their produce. Or grow your own.
Take a soil based probiotic. With strains you don't see in most probiotics, soil based probiotics go deeper (with the help of spores) and you get lasting results.
Click here to try my favorite soil based probiotic.